John Paystrup says he enjoys the view every morning when he looks out over his front yard. He likes to wake up, open the door and see the beautiful, green grass glistening with dew.

Only it's not grass, and it's not dew. And that's just fine with him.

Paystrup, of Springville, is one of a few folks finding it easy bein' green after switching from grass to AstroLawn, a residential and commercial version of ersatz grass made by Texas-based SRI Sports. And, he says, the plastic plants are so nice that some of his Springville neighbors are green with envy.

"I've only had it three months, and I wasn't sure how I'd react to it, but it looks perfect," he said. "I put it in one day, and the next day all the neighbors were aerating and having their lawns fertilized by companies. I saw three of them going at the same time, and I just started laughing."

The people with AstroLawn yards say it's a cut above the real stuff: no mowing, no watering, no fertilizing, no weeding, no pesticides, no mud, easy drainage, lack of a fire hazard when it's dry. What's more, dogs apparently don't like to do their thing on it.

The only drawback? No aroma of fresh-cut grass.

SRI says the fake flora has a life of 15 to 20 years, thanks in part to a coating (providing that glistening effect) that protects it against ultraviolet rays. The company says it's perfect for golf courses, building fronts, street medians, city parks, kennels, stadiums, airports, hotels and schools. Examples are accessible at www.astrolawn.com.

It's not the same stuff that years ago incurred the wrath of pro athletes, who called it "fuzzy concrete." But that Brillo-pad-like, skin-scraping surface has evolved into blades of green polyethylene attached to a black backing. Puny black plastic granules help the blades stand upright and provide cushioning.

While proud they're doing something environmentally friendly during a drought, the AstroLawn greenhorns say the switch costs a bit up-front — $4 to $5 per square foot, compared to between 19 cents and 27 cents for sod — but insist users will save some greenbacks in the long term.

Sport Court, for example, spent $6,000 on lawn maintenance last year at its corporate headquarters, 939 S. 700 West, Salt Lake City. "This summer, we're not going to have any. Zero," said Annika Lundmark, marketing director for the company.

"I think it will be very popular for the commercial market, such as with our company. I could see how there might be hesitance in the residential market because it's just not real. Some people like a really nice grass lawn because it smells good. It's not natural, by any means, but you've got to weigh the benefits against the problems that we have in terms of drought. As people get used to it, they won't have a problem with it."

"Everybody I've talked to says it's a great thing, but the cost is something people are skeptical of," said Brent Simpson of AstroLawn of Northern Utah, the area's authorized dealer (362-6723). He has 1,500 square feet of simulated turf in his front yard and plans to install 3,500 more in the back at his Springville home.

"But they don't look at it as an investment. They can't see the return. They still compare it to grass, but you can't compare it to grass because you won't have the normal upkeep of grass. I personally don't see why someone would want to mow, fertilize and spend all that money."

"I paid a lot of money last year because of grubs," said Paystrup, who has about 1,000 square feet of his front yard done in the AstroLawn motif. "They were very prominent in this area. I think this (AstroLawn) will be cost-effective over time, but I don't know where the break-even point will be. But when you take into account the hassle factor, it's very economical."

"There's no watering and low maintenance," said Luis Muzquiz Jr., who had AstroLawn installed at his La Casita Mexican Restaurant, 333 N. Main in Springville. "I can come out there with a blower and blow it off and it will look brand-new. The lawn is greener than everybody else's, and most people can't tell the difference. I didn't want to run a sprinkler line there, so it was cheaper to go this way."

Patrons also like the clean look, he said. "It doesn't look out of the ordinary at all," he said. "I think this would be great for parking strips along a road and great for businesses. People won't have to mow or deal with sprinklers."

Lundmark said the AstroLawn at Sport Court has drawn a few interesting comments from passersby. "They come up and say, 'Is this grass? It looks so green.' They ask how much we water it. Then they ask if they can touch it."

AstroLawn owners' grass will always be greener, even in winter — snowfall aside.

"That's really when I want to see it, whenever everyone else's is tan and looking terrible," Paystrup said. "I think it will be a neat thing. Maybe I'll hear more from the neighbors then."

AstroLawn backers realize they're going against the grain, but they don't mind having their lawn be the proverbial yardstick by which others are measured. Their grassroots efforts, they believe, might be just the cutting edge of lawn evolution.

Who knows? Maybe years from now people will be singing about how they long to touch the green, green polyethylene of home. Or maybe they'll watch a movie titled "Splendor in the Polyethylene."

To them, green is good.

"There has been a lot of interest in this on the residential side, but I still feel commercial is where it's at," said Simpson, hoping the grass won't grow under his feet while he waits for the green light for more installations. "There, it's not really walked on or played on that much."

Paystrup, who acknowledged he has no green thumb and was "not too aggressive" in maintaining his real-grass lawn, expects to enjoy that front-yard view for years to come. AstroLawn has, so to speak, grown on him.

"There's no comparison right now," he said. "I love it. I wasn't sure I would, but every day I see it, I like it more and more."


E-mail: bwallace@desnews.com